Météorein situ art project in Stellantis factory, Valenciennes (FR), in collaboration with Maxime Brygo, mediated by Travail&Culture, 2021 - ongoing
In 2021 the association Travail et Culture invited Maxime Brygo and me to develop an art project in Stellantis factory Valenciennes, a large plant producing gearboxes for cars in the North of France. What does factory work mean today, and what are the prospects?
During a year of residing, meeting, exchanging and exhibiting in the factory, we witnessed a place in full transformation: from the production of mechanical gearboxes in half-automated production lines with Toyotan principles, to the production of electric gearboxes on full automated productions line according to German standards. A "wave" of white paint is erasing all dirt, colours and traces from the past, convincingly producing an image of a succesfull factory adept to global stardards. Feelings of nostalgia, commemoration, reflection or critique, coming from its employees —often working for more than 10 years in this company— are not allowed. All that matters is surviving and optimistically advancing in the very competitive, neoliberal and global automotive market.
Confronted by what it means to inhabit this factory and its imposed regime on a daily basis, we proposed to produce "Météore". Etymologically, météore refers to a luminous celestial phenomenon, but in Stellantis it is mainly known as the name for a series of ubiquitous convector machines. By assembling elements of some of its discarded exemplars, we have built a "machine à habiter” or a “machine to inhabit". Installed like a Trojan horse in the production hall, traversing different production units, it will offer a small isolated space for factory workers to take a break and meet.
Instead of wiping out memories and imposing strict protocols, its use remains quite undefined, open for different uses and appropriations.
Next to a coffee machine, its shelfs will host a growing collection of artist books. It is supposed to offer another view of factory work, mainly its sensory experiences, which we regard as a blind spot in the contemporary representation of work. The different volumens will be gradually produced in close dialogue with the employees.
Construction of the Météore with recuperated materials from the factory,
thanks to the great assistance of Lara Loft, Marco X and Koen Monard, summer 2023
Fragments from the first series of artist books, produced to be presented in the Météore